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Imaging: Mars/Uranus Conjunction, M108 Galaxy

Posted: 11 March 2015

Open: Tuesday, 10 March 2015, 1814 MST
Temperature: 79°F
Session: 792
Conditions: Mostly clear, some clouds low in west

1826 MST: viewed Venus, 83X. Gibbous phase visible.

1830 MST: sunset:


1833 MST: viewed Mars, 83X. No details visible, but nice orange-red color against bright blue sky. Slewed to Uranus but it was not yet visible. Uranus become visible at 1845 MST. Mars and Uranus were both in the field-of-view (FOV) of the 2" 24mm UWA (83X) eyepiece. Switched to a 1.25" 26mm (77X) eyepiece; both planets were still in the FOV. Attached the iPhone 5s to the 8" LX200-ACF using the MX-1 Afocal Adapter and used the earbuds/mic volume control as a remote shutter release. This image was taken at 1906 MST showing Mars (left) and Uranus (right):


I then removed the iPhone from the MX-1 and slewed to M42 (Orion Nebula). 1909 MST: some nebulosity was visible, 77X.

1922 MST: Zodiacal Light becoming visible.

1942-2003 MST: did NightCap Pro imaging tests of M42 at various exposure settings using the iPhone 5s. I noticed during the exposures that I wasn't getting as wide a FOV as I had expected based on past experience. It wasn't until I started to remove the phone from the MX-1 that I discovered that the phone was not fully seated into the adapter, thus cropping the FOV. Argh. Never did that before. Must have been a holdover from the previous night's numerous "Murphy's Law" intrusions on my activities in the observatory.

Switched back to the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece and viewed M42. Always a nice view. Then viewed Jupiter; four moons visible.

2014 MST: slewed to M108 (galaxy). I wanted to re-do the image I had taken in May 2012 for my Messier Astrophotography Album. That earlier exposure was 5 minutes, ISO 6400. This night I would do an exposure of 10 minutes at ISO 5000. Mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus + extension + off-axis guider. Did a focus test using the Bahtinov Mask on the star Alpha Ursa Major, then slewed back to M108. I located a good guide star and did the 10 minute, ISO 5000, guided exposure. This is the result (cropped from the full-frame image):


2046 MST: finished imaging. I really wanted to do more DSO imaging this night, but had to cut the session short as there were many errands on the next day's schedule.

Close: Tuesday, 10 March 2015, 2103 MST
Temperature: 58°F

Arizona State Parks has put out a Press Release about the big IDA "International Dark Sky Park" celebration at Oracle State Park later this month. If you are in the area on Saturday, 21 March, come to the Park for the all-day celebration event.

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